I need to get a haircut. It’s something I always put off. It’s not too bad, just a bit stringy. I found a coupon for a salon in Berkeley, and as I clipped it out my mother said “You can’t get your haircut in Berkeley. Remember the last time you got your haircut in Berkeley?”
Oh boy do I. 1986, fourteen years old and very shy, hating my middle school with a passion. I had bad skin and learning disabilities. It was not a good combo. My dad took me to Shattuck Blvd and said “Let’s get your hair cut.” Sure, why not. I had nothing else to do. It was Sunday, and I didn’t want to go to school on Monday.
My hairdresser had orange red hair and it looked like she put her fingers in a socket because it looked so electric. She had a nose ring. Now this is so nothing but then it was so shocking, like she was one of those women in Africa who have big holes in their ears. She looked at my hair and said “Let’s try something different.” I could’ve said no. I had every chance to say no. But there was something in me that wanted something different. I always stood out, so what was the point. “Okay,” I said.
I closed my eyes while she cut my hair. I always do this, so when I open them it’s a nice surprise to see myself in the mirror. I heard her cut away my hair, and then I heard a razor. Wait a second! What was she doing! I felt the razor on the back of my hair, and I thought about saying something, doing something, but I stayed silent.
When I opened my eyes, I looked at myself in the mirror. She had cut my hair as if she placed a bowl on my head and cut around it, and shaved the back. Now when I look back, I looked like Corky St. Clair in Waiting For Guffman.
I was startled. It wasn’t me, but yet it was so different, so out there. My father took one look at it and was mad, and then he laughed. “Well, it could be worse! She could’ve shaved all of it!” My mother said to him “You are never taking her for a hair cut again!”
There was part of me that wanted to hide my hair, maybe with a hat. But I couldn’t; hats were not allowed at my school. I went to school Monday morning scared. What were people going to say? I remember walking to my locker, and I remember people staring at me. They were used to mullets, big hair, hair in braids, Farrah Fawcett hair. They had their hair done at Supercuts, Command Perfrmance. If you had money, you could get it washed with nice smelling shampoo. But let’s just say no one from Sequoia Middle School in Pleasant Hill California had their hair shaved and done by a woman with a nose ring.
I remember feeling people stare at me when I opened my locker. Then suddenly I felt this electricity pulse through me. I did something unexpected; I did something out of the blue. I broke the law of middle school; I stepped out of my box and into something new. Why should I be ashamed of this?
The next couple of weeks were so different. People were asking me where I got it done, and they wished they could go to Berkeley to get their hair cut. One girl actually got her hair to look like mine. Popular people talked to me. It died down, of course, but then I noticed other things: my grades improved. I tried out for a school play and got the part. I won two awards the end of my year.
Was it all because of my haircut? I don’t know. But what I do know is it taught me that what you think is bad isn’t, and that you must take risks in your life.
I wish I had a picture to show you of my haircut-my mother refused to let anyone take any pictures of it-but just watch Waiting for Guffman. You’ll get the idea.
Special thanks to Jo Knowles for the writing prompt!
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries